Those golfers who spend much time on the driving range working to hone their swings can typically tell when a new student is taking their first lesson with a particular PGA Professional. As is typically the case, the first lesson begins with a short conversation with the professional asking several questions of the new pupil. The questions cover a variety of topics including how long the student has played, current handicap, common mistakes, short- and long-term goals, physical issues that may hinder their game, etc. It is a necessary and very important conversation for both the student, the PGA Professional. Both are able to begin establishing a relationship that will allow for the correct instruction to be given enabling the golfer to see the greatest benefit and therefore improve their game as much as possible. This same conversation happens with each new junior golfer who joins in the weekly “Golf Day” clinics at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.
Such was the case one afternoon a few years ago at an early November clinic when a 13 year old young man named A.J. came to his first golf clinic. A.J.’s therapist pushed him in his wheelchair to the clinic and told everyone that he was looking forward to playing golf. As the PGA Professionals squatted down to talk to A.J. and learn a little bit about him and what he wanted to get out of learning to play golf, he boldly stated “I want to learn how to walk again.” This caused everyone to smile and promise to work hard right alongside A.J. to make his goal into reality. A.J. did not hesitate to get started as he immediately wheeled himself over to the line of U.S. Kids Golf clubs and quickly selected a driver. As most of the children prefer, A.J. swung with one arm from the side of his wheelchair and picked it up right off the bat. In depth instruction did not begin right away; rather A.J. was allowed to start to develop his own swing and provide feedback on what felt good to him.
Over the next few weeks out-going A.J. worked hard in therapy and on his golf swing. He was never shy to ask questions or want to try something different. A.J. was always the life of the golf clinics, constantly talking, smiling, and laughing. Minor tweaks and adjustments were made to his setup position allowing him to take a fuller backswing while in his wheelchair. The most comfortable position that provided the best results was a slightly closed setup. A closed setup is where the front foot, hip, and shoulder are closer to the ball while the back foot, hip, and shoulder are farther away. A.J. and the PGA Professionals found that this allowed him to take a longer backswing and hit the golf ball much straighter and farther. While A.J. continued to improve his golf game, what he did not tell anyone was how much he was improving in therapy.
|Ranken Jordan President & CEO Lauri Tanner with Cooper Burks|
Golf clinics at Ranken Jordan are held 52 weeks a year regardless of inclement weather, scheduling conflicts, or holidays. Adjustments to the day of the week may be made if major holidays fall on the regularly scheduled day for golf, but the kids will still have the opportunity to hit golf balls every week. A few short weeks after A.J. arrived at his first golf clinic and let everyone know he wanted to learn how to walk again; he came to the golf clinic the week before Christmas. On this particular day the clinic was going to be primarily putting and chipping practice. There were more people with A.J. this time than usual, therapists, family, nurses, etc. A few children were already there working on their putting stroke or trying to chip golf balls into the target nets. There was one putting mat available that A.J. had his eyes on. Everyone expected to see A.J. wheel himself over to the golf clubs, get his favorite putter, and head for the green. Today, however, A.J. had a different thought. With his therapists standing right beside him, A.J. got out of his wheelchair, was secured into a stander, and he walked to the open putting mat. A.J. stood as he hit a few putts then turned and walked back to his wheelchair. Mission accomplished. There was not a dry eye in the room.